Chapter 1 – Story 16: Night Raid

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A group was running through the mountains where the darkness of evening had descended.
Their way of moving, without causing even a single sound, gives one the impression of them being ghosts.
Once they had arrived at the fence that was set up at the mountain’s slope, the hand of the shadow that is in the lead unsheathed their machete, which reflects the beaming moonlight. While the other shadows are cautious of their surroundings, they cut the ropes tying the braces and crosspieces of the fence bit by bit by bit in order to not make a sound.
When a rope was severed, the other shadows caught the crosspiece that was about to fall and slowly lowered it to the ground. After removing the next crosspiece in the same manner, a gap was created that merely allows the shadows to pass through. They then headed for the next fence to complete this process again.
Repeating this over and over again, they finally cleared all of the fences and entered into the encampment.
The interior of the encampment, which was dyed in a pale colour due to being illuminated by the moonlight, was dead silent.
Even the sentries that would normally keep watch were apparently worn out from the battle earlier that day, since they were nodding off while sitting down and holding their spears.
The shadows surrounded these sentries, covered their mouths with their hands, and at the same moment cut through the scruff of their neck that wasn’t protected by the armor’s collar in one go. The sentries died while leaking slight, muffled screams from their restrained mouths.
The shadows ran around the encampment in their search for one prey after the other. Those who counted the stars to waste time, those who slept deeply while leaning against the fences and those, who did callisthenics to keep themselves awake; they had all their throats slit without the time to even scream.
At the time when one of the shadows slit the throat of yet another sentry, the door of the house standing directly in front of the shadow opened. It’s unknown whether it was the time for a shift change or whether he merely got up to take a piss, but the middle-aged soldier, who tried to go outside while releasing a big yawn, faced the shadow with startled eyes.

“Zo-Zoan…!?”

The one who was directly in front of the soldier has its mouth hidden by a black cloth, but due to the armor knit from ivies and the fur peeking out from below that armour, there’s no doubt that it’s a zoan. Being illuminated by the pale light of the moon, the zoan had his machete and arms dyed darkly with spurts of blood.

“Enemy att~!”

The soldier tried to shout that, but what came out from his throat were not words but a flush of blood. The zoan’s machete that flew the distance of around three meters in an instant, precisely tore the soldier’s throat to pieces. However, due to the sound of his body collapsing, there were sounds of soldiers waking up in surprise from inside the houses.
Once the zoan, who dealt with the soldier, gave the sign of 「Shoo sho!」, by sharply breathing out, to his comrades in the vicinity, he raided the house’s inside with his machete in hand. His comrades, who heard the signal, also stormed into the houses one after the other, and several muffled screams were risen in succession from inside.
The soldier, killed at the entrance in the very beginning, was in the end reminded of a single question as his consciousness was being swallowed by darkness as he listens to the screams of his comrades.
「Why are the zoans here even though there were no drum sounds?」 he wondered.

◆◇◆◇◆

Garam was standing on top of the mountain, looking down at the encampment where the massacre was unfolding.
As if to not miss a single thing taking place there, his gaze was turned towards the encampment while not wavering even once.
How much time had passed? There was a change in the encampment. Immediately after a small fire split away from the bonfires placed at the end of the encampment’s mountain-side, the fire moved in mid air as if drawing a circle.

“Clan chief! It’s the signal!” (Gulkaka)

Garam nods at the words of Gulkaka who was standing next to him, and,

“Let’s go!” (Garam)

Saying that, he took along the warriors lying in wait behind him and passed through the opened holes in the fences. What greeted him once he entered the encampment were 20 warriors whose mouths were covered by black cloths.
They are obviously the best of the elites, going by both their physiques and expressions.

“Clan chief! All the humans were disposed of!”

“What are our losses…?” (Garam)

“Some people have just lightly wounded their hands.”

Even the person himself saying so, had a tone as if being half in doubt.
However, this was an outcome that should be called natural.
To begin with, zoans have high physical abilities if compared to humans. In addition to their physical strength and toughness that is to the degree of allowing them to be listed as wild animals, their explosive power is also worthy of a special mention. One could describe it as their excellent reflexes to catch fish with their bare hands and their tremendous acceleration that makes use of all their body’s muscles.
To fight in close combat with a zoan without forming the proper ranks could be considered equal to suicide.
Furthermore, for the zoans, who are genuine hunters, the dark night doesn’t serve as an obstacle in their activity. Exactly like beasts, they accurately grasp the location of their enemies with their hearing and olfactory perception. They are also capable of approaching their prey without being noticed.
Not to mention the humans lack of vigilance towards a night raid by the zoans. They had relaxed their attention even further due to the victory earlier in the day, and thusly were completely unprepared for the attack that took place. You could say that the humans had already lost the moment that the night raid began.

“Clan chief! I guess you don’t mind removing the surveillance of Soma after informing the refuge about this?” (Shyemul)

Even without him turning around, Shyemul’s delight is conveyed just through her lively voice. In contrast to that, Garam, who couldn’t get rid of his bafflement, was unable to do anything but giving a mere, short acknowledgement.

“… Yeah.” (Garam)

“Then, excuse me.” (Shyemul)

Seeing off the retreating figure of Shyemul who is running towards the refuge with nimble steps, Garam finally squeezed out some words after her figure vanished from view.

“Hey, Gulkaka.” (Garam)

“What is it, clan chief?” (Gulkaka)

“Just what the hell have we been doing until now?” (Garam)

Because they had tried to fight while holding so much tragic determination, Garam couldn’t sort out his feelings due to this outcome. As a backlash of his strained tension being cut all of a sudden, he couldn’t even understand what he should do next.

“I don’t know either. Please don’t ask me, clan chief.” (Gulkaka)

◆◇◆◇◆

“Soma! Just as you said, we were able to gain total control of the village!” (Shyemul)

Shyemul drives away the two young warriors, who stood on either side of Souma, with hand gestures.

“I was surprised. Really surprised. For it to work out that easily!” (Shyemul)

Although Shyemul is astonished, from Souma’s point of view, he was surprised that the zoans hadn’t came up with the idea of a night raid yet.

“If you bet on a night attack, they will be easily defeated. It was just as you said!” (Shyemul)

What Souma suggested to the zoans was to stage a 「night raid」.
That’s all it was.
When he saw Gajeeta’s rampage earlier in the day, Souma thought that it looked just like a 「Banzai Charge」.
The old Japanese army, which was lacking ammunition and food after having their supply lines cut off in the Pacific War, was permeated by a non-surrender doctrine according to a famous military handbook with the paragraph of 「Don’t suffer the disgrace of surviving as prisoner」. Without even attempting to capitulate to the U.S. forces even as they were driven into a corner, they attacked with the encouraging shout of「His Majesty the Emperor, banzai!」. That’s the 「Banzai Charge」.
Because there were several movies related to the Pacific War screened in these recent years, even Souma was aware of the 「Banzai Charge」 carried out by the old Japanese army. At first, when he saw those movies together with his father, his impression was 「Something like attacking inside such rain of bullets, that’s amazing, isn’t it?」
However, when he talked about it in his school’s classroom, his military maniac friend declared 「That’s no tactic but merely dying without surrender. In other words, suicide」.
Actually, the assault of the old Japanese army that lacked weapons and ammunition was nothing more than an easy target for the U.S. forces, who had enhanced automatic rifles and artillery. On the contrary, in the Battle of Iwo Jima and Battle of Peleliu, where suicidal attacks were prohibited, the US army suffered heavy losses because they expected the 「Banzai Charge」 instead.
The attack led by Gajeeta earlier in the day was something caused by trusting his own ability as well as underestimating the humans, rather than a completely suicidal act. However, the end results were similar.
Them clearing the mountain’s slope was probably for the sake of procuring wood for building houses as well, but their true aim was to prepare for the zoan’s attack, Souma judged. If you allow the quick-witted and agile zoans to approach, they are dreadful enemies who also possess tough bodies.
However, in addition to the slope where it’s difficult for them to run, there’s also the fences that seal their movements. That place was nothing more than a kill zone for the sake of slaughtering the zoans with good efficacy.
If they plunge in there without a plan, it’s only natural for the zoan warriors to get killed one-sidedly.
It’s similar to the old Japanese army’s soldiers that rushed in front of the U.S. Army’s weapons, such as their machine guns, while raising war cries and without even possessing decent ammunition.
Seeing that, Souma asked Shyemul 「Why, something that reckless…?」
From Souma’s point of view, it would have been fine for them to drop logs or rocks from the slope if they wanted to destroy the fences. Even without doing something like that, if the soldiers were unprepared to some extent by an attack without the drums being sounded out, the raid would have obviously been far easier. And yet, why would they do such a kamikaze attack, honest to a fault? He asked her with such a meaning.
However, Shyemul’s response didn’t criticize Gajeeta’s reckless suicide attack itself, but only identified Gajeeta arbitrarily acting on his own authority, as well as his immaturity to the bitter end.
That’s the true identity of the gap that Souma sensed between himself and Shyemul. The cause that produced this gap is the result of the zoans being a race that has lived on the plains since the beginning. On the plains there are almost no obstructions; therefore, soldiers are unable to hide easily and it would always lead to a direct clash from the front. For the zoans, they continued this way of doing things where they clash with the enemy from the front after naming themselves, which had begun as battles between clans long before they began fighting against the humans.
Moreover, if seen from the viewpoint of the zoans who are physically far superior to the humans, their way of fighting had a cause in something they were strangely conscious of. They are thinking along the lines of, “Like hell we will fight against weaker human opponents in a sly manner!”
Also, if they had actually torn down the fences, the zoans had a chance of winning. At the time when the zoans’ influence was still going strong, they were able to obtain victory several times. Due to these experiences, the zoans ended up discontinuing to reflect further on their way of fighting.
The success of this night raid had also been a result of the humans’ way of thinking. The empire’s great general Inkdiaz, who made a name for himself in the war against the demi-humans that took place around a hundred years ago, answered this after being asked by his subordinate about the requirements for a superior general.

“Bravely fight against dinosaurians and dwarves by using bows, stone slings and throwing spears while in lightweight armour. Ingeniously lure out the marmen to the shore. Lead by marching in loose strings while lining up sturdy shields towards the elven archers. Rely on your battle formation, and be cautious while fighting the zoans, using bows and spears. Stay resolute, which will enable you to endure the harpyian arrows and throwing stones until they are used up.”

These are not just the requirements for a general, but are now also taught as basic tactics in battles between the soldiers of all nations and demi humans.
Just as it’s been written there, the foundation for fighting against the zoans is to fight them with bows and spears without permitting them the approach, where they keenly and nimbly run about on the ground with all four feet. Even during Gajeeta’s rampage, that doctrine yielded definite results.
In short, even the humans got used to the zoans’ battle style, after fighting them that way for close to a hundred years. This comfort in the proper style of fighting zoans ended up being one of the reasons for their defeat. So to speak, the night raid proposed by Souma was a night raid that had been a hundred years in the making.
Not knowing about that, Souma wondered 「No matter how you look at it, aren’t the humans of this world slacking off too much?」
He thought that it was unlikely to end in failure due to the state of the battle during daytime, but he was still anxious either way. Due to the zoans being able to somehow get through it, he releases a sigh of relief in his head.
I declared it that impressively. I have to show an expression signifying that it’s only natural for it to succeed.
On the other hand, because the night raid proposed by Souma was a success, Shyemul is very happy as if the issue were her own matter.
Due to her state, he thought that it would be great if the zoans took this as chance to reconsider that they must not adhere to their own way of fighting. Without that, the next step will be troublesome. That’s because the next time it will become something that would be even further removed from the zoans’ usual way of fighting.

◆◇◆◇◆

The next morning, when he arrived at the encampment while being led by Shyemul, the zoan warriors had already finished cleaning up.
For the zoans who are prideful warriors, they consider all corpses to be the same, even if it’s a human who they ought to hate. They buried the corpses by tossing them into a hole that was dug up at the nearby bare mountain surface.
The problem is the corpses of their brethren that were neglected. Originally, the zoan’s funeral service is about performing a sky burial in accordance with the myths. However, it seemed as if the corpses wouldn’t decompose properly due to the cold. Because there was the concern of fatal diseases spreading by touching the corpses that had been neglected for such a long time, they had no other choice but to burn them together with the remains of the tents.
While Elder is singing a song wishing for rest for the souls of the deceased, Garam ignites the firewood that was piled up in the vicinity. The dry firewood burned brightly in the twinkling of an eye while raising a bright red flame.
While the zoans present there sway their bodies to the left and right, they join the Elder’s song in a chorus.
That is the zoans’ solemn ceremony. There’s no way for Souma, who’s a human just like the perpetrators, to join in on that. He had no other option but to gaze at it from a distance.
After a few hours the fire of cremation finally died out and the zoans searched inside the ashes looking for the articles of their deceased clanmates.

“You were called Soma, right, human youngster?” (Garam)

Garam stepped up to Souma who watched that.
Even though Souma, who was affected by last night’s threats, ended up jumping back in reflex, Garam shakes his head slightly as if telling him that he won’t do anything.

“Thanks to you, I was able to bury the remains of my clanmates. I was also able to recover the machete of the previous clan chief.” (Garam)

That machete was discovered to be possessed by a single human soldier as a spoil of war.
A zoan’s machete is a gem created by the hands of dwarves. From parent to child, from child to grandchild, it is being handed down alongside the pride and soul of a warrior. For the zoan warriors the duty at the time of their death is to pass on their own pride and soul to the next era’s warriors.

“With this, the previous clan chief’s… father’s soul has been handed over to me.” (Garam)

Saying that, Garam lifted the corners of his eyes as he discovered Shyemul walking over and smiled wryly. Maybe she thought that he was threatening Souma by showing him the machete of their father.

“《Ferocious Fang》, what the hell are you…?” (Shyemul)

Garam passed their father’s machete to Shyemul by throwing it. Shyemul catches it in panic.

“This is, the previous clan chief’s…?” (Shyemul)

As it’s a machete that has memories for Shyemul as well, she ends up staring at it while forgetting her words for a brief period.
The hands of father, who held this machete, were the rugged hands of a warrior who spent all his time fighting.
However, she remembers the hands of her father, who awkwardly stroke the head of the crying Shyemul after getting injured, as being very gentle. Shyemul resists the almost spilling tears.

“You have to take care of it. Pass it on at the time when you have a child, okay?” (Garam)

Garam already possesses the two machetes he inherited from his uncle and grandfather. Besides, although he hid his true intentions by wearing the mask of clan chief in front of people, Garam was aware that their father was more worried about Shyemul, who had to bear the heavy responsibility as a divine daughter in such epoch, than anyone else. The act of him handing over their father’s machete to Shyemul was because he believed that it will likely give their father a bit of peace of mind.

“With this there’s nothing left to regret. Afterwards, we just have to struggle to our heart’s content.” (Garam)

If there are the supplies stockpiled by the humans, the elderly and children will be able to escape from this land. As long as there’s no anxiety about the future, I will simply ambush the humans’ military forces together with remaining warriors afterwards.
That’s what Garam thought.
However, without knowing about that, Souma calmly said,

“Well then, first we have to set up lookouts. Since there might be regular messages and scouts that come from the fortress, I don’t want those people to find out that we took back this fortress.” (Souma)

Being intently stared at by Garam and Shyemul with widely opened eyes, Souma becomes flustered.

“You will follow my instructions, right?” (Souma)

Given that the night raid he had proposed himself went so well, Souma thought that his evaluation had risen a little. Nevertheless, he is flustered on whether he will be driven away after being told that he has already served his purpose.
Without realizing that Souma is losing his presence of mind, Garam said in a state of astonishment,

“No way, are you saying that you will drive away even the troops coming here after this?” (Garam)

“That’s right, but…?” (Souma)

Due to Souma saying it as if it was only natural, Garam and Shyemul became speechless.
That was the beginning of the 「Battle of Hoghnareah Hill」, noted down as first battle of 『Divine Son of Destruction, Soma Kisaki』.

 


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